Monthly Archives: May 2012

25 Steps for Error Free Voice Files

Six Sigma Voice Recording Services Year after YearWe take many additional steps beyond the standard sound studio in recording our voice files. It’s part of our Six Sigma standard of excellence here at The Association.

How many? Well, when I listed them out I saw that we take 25 additional steps to make sure voice files remain error free over the years as you build your “voice tree.”  Other digital media producers and recording studios might just record what you send them using any available resources without a thought about the sustainability of the project in the years to come.

To create our six sigma approach, we listed all the ways a voice tree can have errors introduced into it and designed our production line to eliminate all of them. Here are the 25 major measures we put in place.

25 Steps for Error-Free Voice Files
  1. Choose voice talent who are professional and will be in the business for 12 to 20 years out.
  2. Choose voice talent who are stable personally, ethically and spiritually.
  3. Choose voice talent who use their voices and can control their voices in precision voice recording to duplicate how they sounded 7 years ago, for example.
  4. Exec Producer liasons with client to get a 6-week heads up on future recording delivery dates.
  5. Exec Producer keeps in touch with voice talent so he knows availability.
  6. Exec Producer schedules studio, QC auditor, Session Producer, Engineer, and Foreign Voice Coaches for pre-record QC review of script.
  7. Pre-Record QC of Script - Review new scripts to make sure there are no redundant voice files, or files which introduce another way of saying something, which means the computer will now have a choice.
  8. Consistent and congruent use of terms used before.
  9. Make sure new partial phrases plug in to lead-in phrases sensibly.
  10. Be sure that insertions of computer input in variables is doable. (Can’t have it in the middle of a single file, but the files must be broken into a lead-in and a concluding voice files with the computer input being added to the middle pause point.)
  11. Localisation issues – Often translations done stateside do not reflect how the native French Canadian populace in Canada, for example, actually say things today. We review these files to ensure a proper match with the audience who will actually hear the recordings.
  12. RECORDING - We separate functions and give each person only one task each, rather than require multitasking:The Executive Producer/Director runs the record session and directs the verbal performance and quality checks the delivery, energy, beingness, interest level, volume, diction, warmth and professionalism of the performance.The QC supervisor reads along with the script and ensures exactly every word on the script is read as scripted, i.e. no substitutions of “the” for “that” or words eliminated.

    The Sound Engineer plays the proper reference sound files of benchmark files drawn from how they recorded the sound in the past for the voice talent. This way the new files match and will seamlessly integrate with the existing files. He monitors the record levels, the settings of the recording application so that the files may be and are identically recorded as they have been in the past.

    The Session Producer notes the timecode location of every audio file recorded so that we can quickly find files needing repair or re-recording during the quality control checks along the way.

    The Foreign Voice Coach directs recordings in foreign languages and makes sure all is in correctly spoken for the local populace.

  13. EDITING – The Session Producer and editor select the “Keeper” takes.
  14. The Sound Editor goes through the keeper takes and removes any mouth noise, breaths, excessive pauses etc., installs front and back sound ramps and sends the files to the Director and/or the Foreign Language Voice coach with a list of questionable errors found.
  15. The Foreign Language voice coach or Director listens to the files while reviewing the session notes and prepares a QC report of which files are flawed and need to be recorded.
  16. A pick up session is recorded to fix the flawed files.
  17. The new replacement files are pulled down and sent to the sound editor.
  18. The Sound Editor completes the editing of the new files and  provides the new files to the Session Producer.
  19. The Session Producer drops the new files into the master fileset and removes the replaced files.
  20. The updated soundset is reviewed by the Executive Producer, the QC Auditor and the Foreign Voice coach for a final approval.  Any errant files are noted and re-recorded.
  21. Final review of fileset makes sure that every file scripted was recorded.  Three QC people listen to every file while reviewing the corresonding script.
  22. Files are delivered to the client.
  23. Notes of flaws creeping into the process are noted and sent to the QC Auditor.
  24. QC auditor meet with Exec Producer and Session Producer to implement changes to production checklist so error will not re-occur.
  25. Sound files in the final fileset are double backed up on separate hard drives for security and easy reference in the future.
Until recently, it may have worked for a company to just wing it in how they record voice files. But now with the NHTSA proposed guidelines for the driver to have a distraction-free environment, it becomes more important to have voice files be as defect free as the rest of the parts that go in to a vehicle.  Contact us today to find out how to integreate our Six Sigma quality digital audio productions into your processes.


Seamless Voice Recordings for Automotive Telematics Applications

What do JCI, Alpine, deCarta, Honda, Raytheon, Clarion and Hitachi have in common? The Associations’ voice recording services!

Expert Voice Recording for GPS Navigations systems

The Association is already famous in certain circles because of our prowess in digital filmmaking (and our Canon camera classes).  But we are also experts at voice recording, having made our mark in the automotive industry, especially in automotive telematics voice files, years ago. If you’ve ever heard a really pleasant GPS navigation voice (not computer generated – the real thing), it’s probably our voice files you’re listening to. We record voice files that match perfectly with voice files we recorded years ago. This makes the voice prompts smooth and seamless and pleasant to listen to, rather than a jerky, mismatched voice file.


Bad Puzzle Voice Files

Every year GPS Navigation systems have to be updated with the latest maps. So new voice files have to recorded, requiring the same voice talents to record the new files. Even though it’s the same voice talent recording the lines, the digital audio production company often doesn’t make sure the current performance matches perfectly with earlier voice files (so you can’t tell the files were recorded at different times).

The Association ensures new voice files match in pacing, attitude, pitch, inflection, modulation, interest, enthusiasm, and certainty. Most importantly the voice has to sound like the person reading the line really cares about the driver or the listener. It’s that human quality that computers just can’t match.

BOTTOM LINE: We make computers speak like humans.:

The Association's Seamless Voice File Recordings


The extra steps we take are what made us the world leader in sound files for telematics applications.

Not only do we hire voice talent that are exclusively yours for years and years, we make sure all the scripts are ready and the language localized so none of your budget is Basic Steps to Error Free Voice File Recording wasted by confusions during the recording.

Our attention to Quality Control begins before you ever record.

Step One

The steps towards defect-free recorded voice filesA full script review with the voice coach. We do a  syntax check and localize the files for Spanish, French Canadian and just about any other language you can name.  Being in the heart of Hollywood, there is an abundance of top quality voice coaches and voice talent in a wide variety of languages.

We make sure that translated files sound right.

We correct any script errors or bad translations before we get into the recording studio.

Step Two

While in the recording studio we bring files already recorded by that voice talent which we play for them before they record so they can match themselves.

Step Three

During recording we have a Quality Control person that makes sure every syllable is recorded as scripted.  That means no costly errors that have to be fixed later after bringing you much embarrassment, project delays and overruns. In twelve years of recording voice files, we have never missed a deadline. We have never gone over budget and never had to re-record incorrect files.

That’s because we have four levels of Quality Control, before, during recording, during editing and after editing before you get the final fileset.  So after the files are recorded, they are “cleaned” (the breaths and “mouth anomalies,” i.e. clicks and saliva noises are removed), edited and saved in the format you specify. We then listen to every file three times to make sure that everything is in order as scripted and labeled with the correct filename.

This avoids legal issues if a voice file triggered an incorrect driving maneuver for example, causing accident or injury or worse.

The Association has recorded tens of thousands of voice files for navigation and telematics applications since the beginning of car navigation systems.  We’ve recorded for JCI, Alpine, deCarta, Honda, Raytheon, Clarion and Hitachi.  We hope you’ll take this opportunity to get the service and quality that will make your career long and carefree. At least we’ll eliminate the needless hassles of voice recording.  Call us today.  We help computers understand human speech.

How to Leverage a Facebook Presence for your Business


How to Leveage a Facebook Presence for your Business

It’s not a secret that Facebook is a huge part of the Internet. Or that it’s easy to waste a boatload of time browsing through everything shiny, funny or bizarre people post in Facebook. So how does Facebook affect you, the filmmaker, actor, business owner, etc. when it comes to establishing an effective marketing plan? How do you use it to help you get found online?

Leveraging something like Facebook isn’t as hard as it might seem. You don’t actually have to be an expert in anything but your own company. You do, however, have to know WHERE to put your content INSIDE Facebook.

Actually, I’ve found that the hardest part of showing up online to relevant audiences is creating the content. But that’s a whole other story. Back to Facebook. You probably already know all about your company already, right? You’re all set. Here’s your best option:

Facebook Page IconCreate a Facebook Page that talk about your business. Fill it out completely. Then talk about stuff on the Page that your audience would be interested in, using the words they would use to search for the stuff you talk about. Keep talking about it, at least once a week. Include something visual, like a photo or video. That’s about as simple as I can make it.

Why a Facebook Page (Likes) as opposed to a personal profile (friends)? One really good reason. The personal profiles aren’t public, so Google can’t index them. So they don’t show up in search results (beyond your name and anything you’ve made public).  Pages, on the other hand, are completely open to Google by default because Facebook Pages were built that way. To show up. Yeah, Pages come under the category of “Marketing.”

Categorize your personal profile into the same area you’d put your email. Classified, high security, approved-access only. Does Google index your email? Nope. Same thing for your personal Facebook Profile.

So if you want to leverage Facebook for visibility, create a Page and fill it out completely,  Let Google do it’s magic by indexing it. Meanwhile, develop your content strategy (because Google can’t write content for you…).

You’ll need some other tools. An email newsletter to gather contacts in a central place and stay in touch with customers/interested prospects. A blog to help feature your content and provide a hub for your search strategy. A team of people to write content (time consuming – you’ll need help). Video.

But start with Facebook and you’ll soon be found. Well, as long as you keep creating content. Like I said, that’s probably going to be your biggest barrier. For help creating content for your enterprise social media strategy, contact me and I’ll introduce you to the tools I use. If I haven’t written about it by the time you read this blog post, anyway!

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 vs. Apple Final Cut Pro X Workshop Preview

The Association is extending it’s Canon camera classes by presenting an extensive, day long workshop, teaching filmmakers how to choose and use the next generation of editing programs with their DSLR camera. The day will be split up into two separate workshops, covering two separate editing programs: Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and Apple Final Cut Pro X. At this point the workshop will be in July 2012 in Burbank, CA. Stay tuned for the exact date or sign up for our newsletter RSS feed here on this blog.
Each class will go over a wide range of topics, participate in hands on-demonstrations, and in-depth explanations.  The goal is to host a fun, informative, and comprehensive tour of each editing system and how it will benefit you as an editor. These workshops are designed from the ground up to be accessible to beginners as well as thorough training for professionals.
As we gear up for the editing workshop, we wanted to show you the basic breakdowns of each editing system, how they fair on their own, and how they hold up against each other. Each of the three tables display the purpose of the tests, details about the respective programs, and a color code to help give you a visual representation of the information.
Color Code:      Green: Easy    Yellow: Moderate    Red: Hard

Difficulty Chart FCPX vs Premiere CS6

Features of FCPX vs Premiere CS6

Pros and Cons FCPX vs CS6

If you’re having a tough time deciding on what program to adopt, come and participate in both our workshops. There you’ll get a good understanding of the programs, helping you to make an informed decision.





Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 vs. Apple Final Cut Pro X

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6:
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
Just recently updated this year, the new Premiere Pro CS6 has benefited from an improved user interface, hardware acceleration boots, and new features.  There are a lot of things to like about this upgrade. It’s less cluttered, faster, and completely compatible with After Effects and Photoshop CS6. Shortcuts and controls have been overhauled to include FCP7 and Avid setups, and nice little tweaks to speed up your workflow.
There are some great additions to the software such as the new Warp Stabilize feature (which works great) and the ability to work natively in RAW formats from the Arri Alexa, Red Epic, and more.

However, the ease of use and performance has been and is still an issue with Premiere Pro, though much improved. Rendering and exporting is considerably slower than other editing systems despite the improvements made. It also tends to crash occasionally which can be quite annoying. The auto-save feature is great for this reason, but intrusive pop-ups can cause headaches when you’re in another window and every 10 minutes it launches Premiere Pro to the front just to say it was auto saved. There’s no way to turn it off either, so you just have to deal with it.
Overall, despite the occasional headaches and performance issues, this version of Premiere Pro is much improved with some excellent new features, customization and tools. Therefore, I highly recommend this program.
Need more information? Come to the Adobe Premiere Pro and FCPX Workshops with expert Larry Jordan on July 28th.
Apple Final Cut Pro X:

Last year, Apple released Final Cut Pro X, the new successor to its world renowned video editing platform. While the initial impressions were positive, once released, the editing world flipped out and denounced the new version as nothing more than an ‘i-Movie Pro.’

Good news, though! Apple addressed many of the issues editors were having, such as the lack of Multi-Cam editing and FCP7 file support. Since then, people have been slowly coming to terms with the drastic changes and even embracing them.
Final Cut Pro X is faster and more powerful, easier to use, taking the traditional approach to editing and turning it upside down. The user interface is clean and modern. Tools and important features are easy to access and the file management system is smart and intuitive.  One of the biggest features is the Magnetic Timeline and the ability to move tracks anywhere and the rest of the sequence will adjust to wherever you want without having to move other footage around first. Here’s a clip from YouTube of the Final Cut Pro X Sneak Peek on April 11, 2011 that includes a preview of the Magnetic Timeline at 9:15.

Also the auto analysis features for audio, stabilization and color are top notch. Combined with its ability to edit in native formats and background editing, FCPX is a very capable editing platform.
There are still issues to resolve however. Despite having a wide range of features and effects, the lack of third-party plug-ins for FCPX is disturbing. Also the complete lack of OMF support is outrageous for those of us that work with Audio engineers and they want to get their work to us in the highest quality. While these may not bother the average editor or filmmaker, to the pros this is almost a death sentence.
At the end of the day, Final Cut Pro X is an extremely polished, well thought out program that deserves our attention. It’s excellent performance, compatibility, and features, make this a serious option for filmmakers. So I also highly recommend this program.
Need more information? Come to the Adobe Premiere Pro and FCPX Workshops with expert Larry Jordan on July 28th.

What’s your experience with these two tools? Let us know in the comment box below, or share with us on Facebook.


Error-Free Voice Recording Services for Telematics Applications

Although we are famous for our Canon Boot Camp, there’s a “secret” aspect to The Association few know about. A little niche and special talent where we really excel. We are the world leader in error-free voice over recording files for telematics applications.  For example, when you hear a voice in the Honda or Acura vehicles giving you navigation information, those voices belong to our carefully selected talent.  Clarion Logo
When Clarion and Microsoft were building their AutoPC, they came to us.
IBM Logo
When IBM wanted to build a “supervoice” they came to us. (10,000 voice files)
Cadillac CTS
When Cadillac wanted voices for their CTS, they came to us.
deCarta Logo
When deCarta wanted to have voices for their SDK application, they came to us.
Alpine Electronics Logo
We’ve recorded tens of thousands of voice files for Alpine in multiple languages for twelve years running.
And we teach computers to be better listeners.
When Honda wanted 40 people (from everyday life) recording 500 lines to train their computers to be better at voice recognition, they came to us for their voice recording services.
Basically, we’re very, very good at producing human voice files at Six Sigma level of quality (zero defects), This means our clients have no recalls, no embarrassing PR situations and no lawsuits for damages because an incorrect voice file told a driver to “exit freeway on the left” when there was no left exit. Or the sound file couldn’t be understood, or was confusing or a hundred other things that led to driver distraction which took the driver’s eyes off the road and hand off the wheel, violating NHTSA’s guidelines (and worse threatening the safety of the driver).
The “frontier days” of having the receptionist record voice files for navigation systems is over.  It’s the golden age of voice files and we want to offer our services to companies awakening to this event.  In the long run we are their least expensive choice because we take 25 more steps in the production process than the standard voice recording studio to insure all voice files are as error free as any other part in the car.
Contact us for a quote on any of your digital audio production needs.


Cypress College DP Clifford Lester Visits the Canon Boot Camp

Clifford Lester PhotographyCreating and putting on our Canon Boot Camps every month is a lot of work. But the little rewards we get along the way are worth it. While I originally started these Canon camera classes to provide training for filmographers, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting videographers from a wide spectrum of fields. More recently we’ve begun training still photographers in the ways of video. Many still photographers have access to the amazing video capabilities of the Canon HDSLR 5D and 7D; they just never unlocked the full potential from a lack of training.

Case in point: A Professor of Photography at Cypress College, Clifford Lester. Clifford was part of a select group of still photographers who attended the Palm Springs Photo Festival this past April, and took the Canon Boot Camp we delivered on April 3rd and 4th. Clifford was already an accomplished photographer, and has now obtained our Canon Certification for Canon HDSLR. Afterward Clifford emailed me and commented about the workshop. Although brief, it makes all the extra effort worth it:

Clifford Lester, D of P at Cypress College

Hi Fletch,

Just wanted to thank you again for a great workshop.  You and your team are a real class act!!  Thanks so much.

June’s Canon Boot Camp will feature a segment on the Mark III, including answering the following questions:

1) What are the new compression schemes, ALL-i and IPB?
2) Can the Mark III really deliver 90 Mb/second?
3) What’s the blurring effect in the DPP software and is there a work-around?

We will also show some recent videos feature the Mark III’s low light performance. Don’t miss it! Our DSLR workshops are very hands-on and worth the investment.

Canon 5D Mark III ISO Preview #1 of 2

Over the past few years, the Canon DSLR 5D Mark II has been a run-away hit for the independent filmmaker. It was one of the first DSLRs to offer 1080p High Definition video, allowing it to compete alongside more expensive, traditional camcorders.

Now, four years later, the new Canon DSLR 5D Mark III has arrived and thankfully it hosts some upgrades to the video mode. With the more powerful DIGIC 5+ processor, moiré is reduced and the rolling shutter problems minimized. On the software side, encoding is more advanced, giving you options to record in a new, higher quality ‘All-i’ compression.
  • Moiré: When shooting a video that contains areas of repetitive detail , if it exceeds the resolution of the camera it will create a wavy moiré pattern or haze like artifacts.
  • Rolling Shutter: When shooting video on a DSLR, different portions of the frame are exposed at different times in relation to the than other portions. When the subject or the camera moves during exposure, the result is reflected in the frame as either skew, wobble, or partial exposure. This distorts your image and hurts the quality.

The 5D Mark III’s 35mm full frame sensor allows for shallow depth of field and relatively sharp picture quality. You also have full manual control over the way your video looks, controlling shutter speed, ISO, and more.

  • ISO: The measure of a digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. This effects the amount of noise and grain present in your video.

Canon 5D Mark III ISO Test

To determine the amount of noise present in each ISO setting, we created a series of tests on 5D Mark III’s sensitivity. For those of you who haven’t seen the results watch the video below.

1. First Impressions: After reviewing the footage for the first time, we had a near impossible time seeing any noise below 20000 ISO.

2. Results: Once we bumped up our levels and zoomed in 200%, we started to see that there is was at least some grain present in each ISO setting.

3. Conclusions: Native ISO numbers faired the best with 160, 320, 640, and 1250 showing the least amount of noise. Not that the other settings are bad, but I recommend avoiding them. ISO up to 6400 is usable but again stick with the native ISO numbers.

Another Canon 5D Mark III ISO test video is coming soon, this time showing the noise levels with the Noise Reduction feature turned on (Normal & High).


The Human to Machine Interface – Making the Computer a Better Listener

Voice Recordings Produced on a Six Sigma Production Line

Here at The Association we’re helping computers become welcome guests in a conversation.  For years we’ve recorded voice files to give more pleasant voices for computers to speak with.  Now we’re recording voice files to make the computer a better listener. Basically just understand us humans.
How? We record 50 people, men and women, young and old,  recording 400 typical responses to the computer’s questions. We schedule non-professionals – people who slur their words, or talk too fast, or too slow, or do all the hundreds of things computers don’t do.  Let’s face it.  If we spoke like computers computers could probably understand us. And that’s why when you say, “Volume up” the computer rolls up the windows.
Now our clients engineers can play voice files that say the same line 50 different ways to really polish their computers voice recognition prowess.  We’re not going to say who we’re working for but you’ll know them soon because they’ll have the cars that when you say “volume up” the volume will actually go up.


The Association’s Six Sigma Production Line

Nice Voice Recordings for Computers

The Association has become the world leader in voice files for telematics applications with their six sigma production line.  At the very beginning, years ago, we basically looked at everything that could produce a defective voice file and we put a production line in place to eliminate any defective variance.

The Association views its voice files just like any other parts that goes into a car.  Badly done voice files threaten the safety of the passengers just like a mechanical part.   For example, an incorrectly-named voice file prompts the driver to “Exit Freeway on the Left” when it should have played the voice file “Exit Freeway on the Right.”  Or perhaps a confusing voice file made the driver take his eyes off the road to check the map display at a crucial split second. These errors distract the driver from his primary task and threaten his safety.
We choose voice talent who are a pleasure to listen to.  Often the driver will listen to that voice more than their spouse. It’s got to be good…a voice you can rely on at seventy miles per hour on a rain-soaked freeway in a storm. And we record the files so they all fit together seamlessly to reduce the distraction of “Frankenstein voice files” that kind of jump all over the place in volume, pitch, speed, inflection etc..
We only pick professional voice talent who are stable and will be contracted to record decades into the future. They are booked exclusively for just one client.  Alpine and Honda have an appreciation for zero defect.  They are very committed to excellence in everything they do.  A six sigma level of quality in everything they do is what insures companies longevity and market share growth.  We think with the new NHTSA proposed guidelines will cause other users of recorded voices to rethink their approach to voice files.  It’s all about safety.   We want to get everyone home safe. That’s why the six sigma production line is in place. It’s important. At the end of the day, it does save our clients money, but most important, it protects the driving public.  That’s cool.
You can hear some of The Association’s seamless voice files at